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Old 06-18-2017, 11:33 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Default The Complete Larkin

I just received “The Complete Larkin” in the mail and have been busy extracting pleasure and lessons from it. The pleasure is private but here is a lesson: 70 pages of published poetry, 235 pages of unpublished poetry. He deemed less than a quarter of the verse he wrote worthy of refinement and eventual publication. The lesson is clear.

There have been a few gems among the unpublished stuff and lots of delightful doggerel but Larkin was right to publish only what he did. From what I gather, he was hesitant to include his first book “The North Ship” in his legacy. If he hadn’t, there would have been less than fifty pages that came down to us as official Larkin.
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Old 06-19-2017, 01:52 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Here is the eighteen-year-old Larkin writing mopey-adolescent poetry. It's endearing. He compares himself to Dylan Thomas and Auden, writing that his "swan of music" is

Lacking the wordy bloodstream at command,
The green selfconscious spurt that drives the hand
Of Dylan in his womb of whiskey rocked,
And lacking too the brilliant-muscled tact
Of Auden riding through his ogreland.
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Old 06-19-2017, 03:56 PM
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Maryann Corbett Maryann Corbett is offline
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Thanks for this, Aaron. It's reassuring that even Larkin wrote bad juvenilia.

But I'm really, really interested in the mature poetry that he didn't consider good enough to try to publish, especially if it's outside the category of doggerel. If you have time, would you post a sample of that?
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Old 06-19-2017, 05:16 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Sure, Maryann,

here's one of the best of them:

Long Last

Suddenly, not long before
Her eighty-first birthday,
The younger sister died.
Next morning, the elder lay
Asking the open door
Why it was light outside,

Since nobody had put on
The kettle, or raked the ashes,
Or come to help her find
The dark way through her dress.
This went on till nearly one.
Later, she hid behind

The gas stove. 'Amy's gone,
Isn't she,' they remember her saying,
And 'No,' when the married niece
Told her the van was coming.
Her neck was leaf-brown.
She left cake on the mantelpiece.

This long last childhood
Nothing provides for.
What can it do each day
But hunt that imminent door
Through which all that understood
Has hidden away?

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 06-19-2017 at 05:18 PM.
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Old 06-19-2017, 05:56 PM
Kyle Norwood Kyle Norwood is offline
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I agree that Larkin was right not to publish more than he did; but a few times he missed a poem like this untitled one. ("Long Last" is another fine one, Aaron.)


An April Sunday brings the snow,
Making the blossoms on the plum trees green,
Not white. An hour or two, and it will go.
Strange that I spend that hour moving between

Cupboard and cupboard, shifting the store
Of jam you made of fruit from these same trees:
Five loads--a hundred pounds or more--
More than enough for all next summer's teas,

Which now you will not sit and eat.
Behind the glass, under the cellophane,
Remains your final summer--sweet
And meaningless, and not to come again.

Last edited by Kyle Norwood; 06-19-2017 at 05:59 PM.
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Old 06-19-2017, 06:19 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Kyle, I had marked a star next to "An April Sunday brings the snow" as well. Yes, that is a stand-out.
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Old 06-19-2017, 08:50 PM
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Gail White Gail White is offline
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Just goes to show that it really takes very few poems to make you immortal, when you're one of the best there is.
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Old 06-20-2017, 05:56 AM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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Those are both wonderful, indeed.

Is there a date on the untitled poem Kyle posted? I'm no expert on Larkin's life, but it felt to me like it was about his mother.
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Old 06-20-2017, 07:06 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Michael,

To his father, it seems. According to the notes, there's a fair copy dated 4 April 1948.

This also from the notes:

"Letter to MJ, 4 April 1948 'My holiday was rather as I expected -- my poor father grew steadily worse & died on Good Friday. Since then my mother & I have been rather hopelessly looking at the stock in the house -- this morning I shifted 100 lbs of jam -- 1945,1946 & 1947 years -- and about 25 Kilner jars of bottled fruit [...] I don't know what will happen to it all -- I don't like sweet things, you remember"

Matt
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Old 06-20-2017, 07:15 AM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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Oh, Matt! Thank you.

Was I sexist or simply projecting my own experience? Anyway, I am so glad to know. It is a gorgeous poem.

M
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